GOP lawmaker says panel investigating Russia is 'poison'


Partisan sparring over the Russia investigation is causing chaos on the traditionally bipartisan House intelligence committee — with the panel now planning to build a wall to separate Republican and Democratic staff who have long sat side by side.

A senior Republican on the committee, Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, said Thursday that he thinks the committee is "poison" right now, characterizing partisan tensions as a total breakdown on committee that could have national security concerns. Rooney is one of the leaders of the panel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign was involved.

"The level of trust is just gone," Rooney said, adding that "certain things definitely suffer," like how to fund and conduct oversight over intelligence agencies.

Rooney said he was discouraged that only three or four members of the committee attended a recent national security briefing on a "very sensitive issue abroad that that we have been following for years." He said the sparsely-attended meeting came at the same time lawmakers were publicly debating their differences over a GOP memo that criticized methods the FBI used to obtain a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate.

The plan to divide the Republican and Democratic staff comes as members of the two parties have publicly been at odds, first over the panel's ongoing investigation into Russia and more recently over Republican investigations into the FBI and Justice Department. A committee official confirmed the plan to separate staff, characterizing the move as bringing the panel into line with most other committees in the House where majority and minority staff use different offices. The official declined to be identified because the committee's operations aren't public.

Much of the tension has been between the Republican chairman of the panel, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and the committee's top Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, who have been chiding each other since launching the Russia investigation together last year.

Schiff said dividing the two staffs would be a "terrible" mistake.

"While we have more than our share of difficulties, the important oversight work of the committee continues with our staff working together, irrespective of party," Schiff said. "This would be a very destructive decision."

It's unclear what the wall would look like or if it would permanently separate the staff. CBS News first reported that there would be a partition.

He disputed Rooney's account that the committee's other work is suffering, noted the panel has recently passed bipartisan bills to renew intelligence programs. Schiff said he believes the committee has so far been able to "compartmentalize."

A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment on Rooney's characterization of the committee.

Rooney expressed frustration with Democrats, but also with the breakdown of bipartisanship in general. He said another likely result is that Republicans and Democrats will issue separate reports on the Russia investigation, and partisans will only believe one report.

"As far as who is to blame for that — everyone is so eager to blame Devin, but I can't tell you that it's Devin's fault, that the atmosphere down there is what it is," Rooney said. "You could easily say the same thing about Adam on our side. But that doesn't help."

The tension has escalated in the last few weeks as Democrats have disputed the GOP memo, which was declassified by President Trump last week and released unredacted by the committee. The committee voted Monday to release a classified Democratic counter-memo, but Republicans have said they think it needs redactions. Trump has five days from the Monday vote to decide whether to allow its release.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

When is the Stoneman Douglas town hall meeting; what time, what channel?
When is the Stoneman Douglas town hall meeting; what time, what channel?

Stoneman Douglas High School students and parents will take part in a town hall meeting on Wednesday, a week after the school was the site of a mass shooting. The meeting will come following a rally Wednesday in Tallahassee where a group of the students hopes to pressure the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to consider a sweeping...
Lawyer accused of lying in Russia investigation
Lawyer accused of lying in Russia investigation

An attorney is facing charges of lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign. The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Rob Porter’s charisma and ambition disguised flare-ups of anger
Rob Porter’s charisma and ambition disguised flare-ups of anger

People who crossed paths with Rob Porter in Harvard classrooms or the hallways of Capitol Hill describe him in glowing terms: He was articulate enough to be secretary of state. Intelligent enough to be a Supreme Court justice. Driven enough to be president.  Until Porter resigned as a White House aide amid domestic abuse accusations, plunging...
Why Parkland students have emerged as a powerful political voice
Why Parkland students have emerged as a powerful political voice

The boldest voices to emerge in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. have been unexpected ones. Surviving students at the school quickly spoke out on social media and to news cameras both about the incident and, more broadly, about political leadership which they saw as having let them...
Trump Jr. to give foreign policy speech while on ‘unofficial’ business trip to India
Trump Jr. to give foreign policy speech while on ‘unofficial’ business trip to India

The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what's been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family's real estate projects. But he's also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Beginning Tuesday, the junior Trump will have a full schedule...
More Stories